Countries Buying the Most Weapons From the US Government

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Florence cityscape in Tuscany, Italy
Source: Thinkstock

7. Italy
> 2016 arms imports from U.S.: $511 million
> 2016 total arms imports: $868 million
> U.S. as % total arms imports: 58.9%
> 2015 GDP: $2.2 trillion

Unlike many countries on this list, Italy has significant domestic weapons manufacturing capabilities. Leonardo, a Rome-based company formerly known as Finmeccanica, develops helicopters, fighter jets, and defense systems. The company sold $9.3 billion worth of arms in 2015 alone. Still, Italy imported hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military aircraft and sea vessels in 2016, in addition to about $23 million worth of missiles.

Italy’s weapons imports hit record highs in 2016. All told, the Mediterranean country bought $868 million in weapons from foreign governments in 2016, versus the next highest annual expenditure of $525 billion in 2007. The majority of weapons systems the country imported last year came from the United States.

Jerusalem, Israel
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6. Israel
> 2016 arms imports from U.S.: $526 million
> 2016 total arms imports: $607 million
> U.S. as % total arms imports: 86.7%
> 2015 GDP: $285 billion

A Middle Eastern country under near constant threat of terrorist attacks and armed conflict, Israel is one of only a few states with compulsory military service. In addition, the country spends about 5.4% of its GDP on defense, a larger share than all but a handful of other countries. American arms manufacturers are some of the biggest beneficiaries of Israeli defense spending. Israel bought some $526 million worth of arms and weapons systems from the U.S. in 2016 alone.

Israel is one of only a few countries on this list to have a significant domestic defense and weapons industry. The country is home to defense electronics company Elbit Systems, which reported $2.95 billion in arms sales in 2015, and to Israel Aerospace Industries, which reported $2.78 billion in 2015 arms sales. Each company ranks among the 35 largest companies in the world by arms revenue.

The Pearl, Porto Arabia Marina shot from the air in Doha, Qatar
Source: Thinkstock

5. Qatar
> 2016 arms imports from U.S.: $595 million
> 2016 total arms imports: $901 million
> U.S. as % total arms imports: 66.0%
> 2015 GDP: $329.7 billion

The Middle East is one of the most dangerous and unstable regions in the world today. As a result, many MIddle Eastern countries without much of a defense industry of their own purchase weapons and defense systems from foreign countries. Qatar is one such country. The nation spent $901 million on weapons in 2016, the majority of which it bought from the U.S.

Qatar is an important strategic U.S. ally in the region. The Al Udeid Air Base, located just outside of the capital city of Doha, currently hosts some 10,000 U.S. troops, effectively making it the largest U.S. base in the Middle East.